In Now You See Me 2, the anti-hero magicians from the first film come out of hiding for another round of razzle-dazzle that will save the world from the evil .00001 percent.
It’s anyone’s guess what these trickster rabble-rousers have been doing for the past few years, other than flicking cards at warp speed and perhaps streaming David Copperfield videos. But a mysterious source summons the gang into action, and with a proverbial wave of the wand, the convoluted proceedings get underway.
The story doesn’t make a lick of sense, but this sleight-of-hand movie is all about the smoke and mirrors, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else, except when it’s delivering a few hollow lamentations about income inequality.
Like the original, the sequel is a string of elaborate tricks that range from the merely implausible to the utterly preposterous. Your enjoyment of the movie will depend on whether you can suspend your disbelief (and confusion) and let the magic of misdirection wash over you.
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The best set-pieces are at the beginning, when the tricksters get a taste of their own medicine, and near the end, when the magicians stage a whopper of a caper that gives the villains their comeuppance.
But the script offers little in the way of magic for its characters, who might as well be trapped in one of Houdini’s water chambers. The first film offered some wisecracking between Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson, but here they barely talk to each other.
Instead, Harrelson spends his time warring with his evil twin brother (bad idea), and Eisenberg is stranded without a sparring partner (really bad idea). The character of Jack (Dave Franco) is so skimpily written that he could disappear into thin air, and no one would notice.
Faring better is Lizzy Caplan, who plays the new kid, Lula, with welcome pluckiness. Despite being some of the most-wanted fugitives in the world, the magicians need only about 30 seconds to accept this new member into their exclusive world.
We are also supposed to believe that these rebels are a tight-knit family, but there is no meaningful interaction between them. Instead, it’s either exposition or tricks, and many of the stunts do little to advance the story.
There’s no arguing that there’s a clever concept that anchors the Now You See Me franchise, but the art of misdirection can take you only so far. The magic has to be in the details, too.
‘Now You See Me 2’
Rated PG-13 for violence and some language. 2:09. Fayette Mall, Frankfort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester, Woodhill.